The Fish By: Elizabeth Bishop Essay

1100 words - 4 pages

Elizabeth Bishop's "The Fish"Elizabeth Bishop is a poet that is often admired for her vivid descriptive poetry. Her interest in reading and writing came early in life as she suffered from several illnesses that caused her to spend many hours alone. (Gale) Many critics admire Bishop's objectivity "because she was interested in viewing details spontaneously, without imposed rationalizations, in the manner of a naturalist" (Gale). Bishop is also known for writing poems about ordinary experiences that "convey subtle revelations" (Gale). One excellent example of this can be seen in her poem, "The Fish." The poet's observation in this poem not only creates an image of the fish for the reader, but it also expands the scope of the poet's appreciation for the fish."The Fish" is a narrative poem in which the poet discovers the beauty in nature. The poem displays Bishop's use of rhetorical and sound devices as well as tone, metaphor, symbolism, personification, simile, and imagery. While the poem seems to be about the simple experience of catching a fish, it turns out to be much more.The poet sets the tone of the poem by using very short line lengths. This represents the poet's short thoughts she experienced while fishing. This structure also captures our attention.Perhaps the most striking feature of this poem is the poet's careful attention to detail. For example, we are told, "He didn't fight./He hadn't fought at all" (5-6). This causes us to feel sympathy for the fish almost immediately. Additionally, the poet tells us the fish was "battered and venerable/and homely" (7-8). An example of the poet's use of simile can be seen when we are told the fish's "brown skin hung in strips/like ancient wallpaper," (10-11) and was shaped "like full-brown roses/stained and lost through age (14-15). These images present us with a fish that is old and worn who no longer has the strength to fight for life.The poet's discovery that the fish is old has an effect on her. She begins to notice other aspects of the fish as well. For instance, the fish is covered with "white sea-lice" (19) and its gills were "fresh and crisp and filled with blood" (25). The poet also observes the fish's eyes, which are "far larger" than hers and:shallower, and yellowed,the irises backed and packedwith tarnish tinfoilseen through the lensesof old scratched isinglass. (36-40)These lines illustrate the poet's ability to capture details about the simplest and smallest of things. The poet utilizes the technique of hyperbole here by stating that the fish's eyes were bigger than her own were. Her intention is to make us sense the life she became aware of when she looked into the fish's eyes, which ultimately makes her feel sympathy for the fish. The action of looking into the fish's eyes is also powerful in that it allows the poet to personify the fish. We also discover the poet's use of an apostrophe here, which is emphasized by the poet's looking into the fish's eyes.She begins to see the fish as...

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